First report from Haiti

by Iderle Brenus, Via Campesina Caribean

Port-au-Prince, Saturday 16th of January
The cities in the province have been affected in some extent by the earthquake last Tuesday.
The UN announced yesterday that in between 80 to 90% of the buildings in the town of Leogane had been damaged. According to the local police (HNP) in this city of 134,000 inhabitants, between 5,000 and 10,000 people, were killed by the earthquake.
According to the Minister of Culture, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, Jacmel is practically destroyed.
According to UN sources, the cities of Gressier and Carrefour are destroyed by 40-50%.

She spoke with one of the leaders of the small farmers association TK; they have not suffered casualties among their leaders among the MPNKP peasant farmers movement. The majority of the leaders are in the provinces and we don’t have news.

Port-au-Prince is now a city covered in dust where there is pestilent stink; its inhabitants, who are homeless are trying to leave this hell in which the devastated capital of a country in ruins has been converted. Some are going to the rural areas, with the hopes of being welcomed by a friend or family members. Others are going to Petionville, but the situation is not better in this city. According to witnesses hundreds of people are walking the road to the border with the Dominican Republic. Yesterday the Haitian authorities announced that they have buried 40,000 corpses and that they estimate that between 50,000 to 200,000 Haitians died in the earthquake.
As a sign of hope, US troops have begun to distribute humanitarian aid.
After the earthquake many young men and teenagers, sometimes women have become looters. Some are just looking for something to eat; to survive. Others, who are stealing ventilators, stereo equipment, umbrellas, pharmaceutical products, have been considered thieves by the police. They are everywhere in Port-au-Prince, in groups, armed with sticks, baseball bates and even machetes. They attack not only the shops and stores but passerbies to steal whatever they may have left.
When the Haitian police arrive to arrest a robber or thief, they make them kneel down, with their hands on his head and allow them to leave without “their booty”. However, the robbers continue with their activity in total impunity regardless when they are some blocks away. To scare looters and thieves sometimes the police fire into the air, but especially in order to keep them far away from the buildings that could still collapse. The police is waiting for the support of military forces (between 9,000 to 10,000) who will arrive in Port-au-Prince on Monday.